The Un-Social Media.

This morning, in the office, a colleague was making a huge noise about filling the printer with paper. Boxes were being dumped on the floor, printer draws were being opened aggressively and grunts and sighs could be heard while she did.all.the.things. 

I caught myself rolling my eyes back into my brain and getting annoyed by her very obvious effort to attract attention – and then I realised – I am guilty (as are you, sorry) of doing this every single day.

Except nowadays we aren’t chucking red Typek boxes of paper onto office floors but rather posting ranty-ravey messages on Facebook, taking mysterious selfies and alluding to things on Twitter and Instagram. We are all basically spending our lives hiding away from people online whilst simultaneously looking for human connection.

The reason I say I am guilty of this is because – without knowing it – I have come to trust relative strangers over those closest to me.And if you are doing the same, you probably feel how I do. I write blogs, I post a lot on social media and I share my photography images on various social platforms. I do this for two reason; A) I adore writing and sharing my ideas and B) I’m exceptionally proud of my photography business, and as we all know, word of mouth is one of the biggest marketing tools there is. So, whats the problem? The problem is that the more I share the less response I get from actual physical flesh and blood friends. I get tons of compliments and likes and shares from people I have never met, but people who like my work, enjoy my writing style or simply find me interesting enough to follow. Which is superb. I am so grateful for this body of support and love that gets shown to me on a daily basis.

But. And there’s a big but. Where has the actual friendship gone? I’m talking about the mate-to-mate connection that was so much more prevalent before it became easier to watch a buddy’s life through a smartphone screen. Has Facebook made us into an insecure and jealous society? I physically ache for the acknowledgement of my peers and so, I believe, that if I post pretty photos and witty anecdotes on my socials, then those friends will respond and react. Except they don’t. I’ve become that lady in the office shoving paper into the printer hoping someone will ask if they can help.

I put this theory to the test recently when – after driving home from a shoot on Mother Day – I was in a car accident. A taxi rear ended me and what could have been a simple swopping of insurance details turned into a really frightening experience when he became aggressive and intimidating and with me fearing from my life. Normally I would have gone straight to Facebook with a woe-is-me tale of the incident – but instead I sent some friends a message telling them what had happened.

I’m no expert but I truly believe (and like to think) that it’s not a lack of love but rather an over stimulation of the senses, that has made connectivity grow but connectedness die. If you see everything you need to see on a 24/7 channel, then you become an expert in that subject matter. Admit it – without having ever met them – you thought you knew Ross and Rachel better than anyone, right? Well, just like they were or (or weren’t – #TeamRoss!), we need a break. We are watching the TV of our friends lives and because we see everything, we assume they know that we know and that we care.

So, with that in mind (and I probably wont cut down on the amount of time I spend on social media) I am going to make a conscious effort to be more involved in communication and to re-establish real and physical connections. I want these people, who’s lives are now so visible, to know that they aren’t actually invisible. I want them to remember that I genuinely care about them, am happy for their successes and want the best for their lives.

PS – This is now way means you should’t please share my blog or book me for shoots. I need to pay for all the nice things. 😉

Continue Reading

The Problem With Mommy Groups.

Falling pregnant is (relatively) easy. Being pregnant, and then spawning a baby, is the hard part. It’s only until you have this tiny, helpless infant in your arms that you think to yourself “shit, now what?”. 

I think I spent my entire pregnancy in denial – under a false illusion that once baby was here I would know exactly what to do, and that everything would magically fall into place. Except, it didn’t. Suddenly, I had this brand new, pink, squeaking, frog-like human in my arms and panic set in. How will I know when to change its nappy. What size nappy? What brand of nappy? When does it eat? How does it eat? How much does it eat? OhMyGodWhenAmIEverGoingToEatAgain?!

And so, I sought advice from the experts. Other moms. 

Facebook, with all its faults, does offer us one great thing – groups. And if there’s one thing a mommy loves, it’s a mommy group on Facebook. Before my baby was barely more than some drying wee on a dipstick, I had been added to more Faceook groups than I could remember. Breastfeeding groups, gentle parent groups, Joburg groups, groups about groups, groups abut those groups who group together. You get the point. 

My newsfeed was filled daily with panic stricken moms asking for consultations on their baby’s rash, moms asking for reliable family photographers and moms looking to sell little Johnnys ‘barely used’ burp cloth.

At first, I loved it, I sucked in the information like an alcoholic on relapse. Everything fascinated me! No ‘is this poo even normal’ question was too much for my insatiable appetite, no requests for ‘it’s little Julie’s birthday in 7 minutes and I need one hundred million gluten free Frozen themed cupcakes’ could scare me away. Oh no, I was mommy group befok. 

Until I started asking my own questions.

They started off innocently enough. One day I asked if anyone could recommend a good book to read during maternity leave (and we laughed and laughed). I also posed on the group the day before my son was born, and the love poured in. Then, I had the absolute gall, the CHEEK, to post about something that required a point of view. Circumcision. Words like ‘baby massacre’ and ‘genital mutilation’ spring to mind. My post elicited hundreds of responses where women, who I have never met and who have never met me unleashed their verbal abuse. 

I’m not alone. I have seen hundreds of moms torn to shreds for even mentioning the word ‘bottle fed’ or (gasp!) ‘C Section’. Questions around how many ml’s a baby should be drinking were met with very angry women lambasting anything that didn’t come out of the boob. Cute pics of ‘baby’s nursery linen’ were followed with Internet links to cot deaths and SIDS stats.

Eventually, I started to unfollow most of the groups, and retreated into the corner like a scolded school child. From there, I observed, and watched more innocent ladies fall to the merciless hands of the know-it-all-parent.

I have chosen to remain on two Facebook groups, where abuse is met with a quick removal by the page admin, but having been burnt a few times I am hesitant to post anything more than an innocuous update about something that can’t offend anyone. (puppies running through tulips, and that sort of thing)

Motherhood is fucking tough. We all have our days where we have no idea what we’re doing. I’m still so grateful to the few groups I remain on and the 99% of moms out there who are genuine and helpful, and don’t mind a difference of opinion.

To those moms, the invisible personas behind the profile pictures, I thank you. We may have never met, but you have helped me in more ways than you know.mommy wars

PS – I still can’t help anyone with a hundred million gluten free Frozen themed cupcakes. Sorry. 

Continue Reading

Wet 'n Wild is now available in South Africa

12 years ago, while living in America, my obsession with ‘drug store’ beauty products began. I had left Clicks, our local Unicorn branded ‘Health Home and Beauty store’ with its measly offering of Yardley’s Oatmeal range or Lentheric body sprays, and entered a world where drugstores, supermarkets and Target (oh, Target. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of you) were stocked with aisle upon aisle of beauty products and accessories. My mind was blown, and I couldn’t get enough. Even then, when the exchange rate was at its highest, I could still find joy in a $0.99c lipstick or body lotion special.

When I returned home in early 2003, I assumed that my beloved country would have realised how much I needed these products in my life, and automatically stocked them. Alas, Clicks was still Clicks, and choices were dismal. I mean, my god, we didn’t even have hair straighteners in our country back then ( I eventually resorted to importing one from America…velvet plates and all).

Fast forward a few years and finally a few retailers stated jumping on the International brand bandwagon – Woolworths had, and still has, a brilliant variety, MAC stores started popping up, and with the introduction of the Internet came eCommerce and the option to buy things from overseas (bless you, technology).

Look, I am the first person to splash out on R900 foundation and R400 blush, but there is something so nostalgically appealing about the ‘brands I left behind’ in the good old USA. Especially, when on a budget, and you see things like this.

So, it was with much excitement and a small squeal when I found out that Wet n Wild (yes, the cosmetic brand that sounds like a condom brand) was finally in SA. In Clicks nogal!

The prices are so reasonable and the selection is great. I’m currently using the Pressed Powder and the blush and must say – I’m really impressed with both – considering the price (cheap!) the pigment is strong and lasts just as long as any MAC or Bobbi Brown blushes I’ve used.

Wet n Wild Coverall Pressed Powder
Wet n Wild Coverall Pressed Powder
Wet n Wild Blush
Wet n Wild Blush

Wet n Wild is sold exclusively in Clicks stores – and you can also follow them locally on Facebook .

It’s a good start…but there are so many other brands I wish would come to SA – which ones are you lusting after?

Continue Reading

#GLAadventure Weekend

When Mercedes Benz South Africa invites you to be a part of an adventure weekend featuring the new GLA, the bush and some mountain biking, it’s impossible to say no. In-fact, it’s impossible to not jump up and down and squeal like a stuffed warthog (at least not in front of grownups), which I totally didn’t do, of course.

The weekend was part of a series of adventures throughout South Africa to showcase the new GLA and to put this (my new favourite) car through a series of challenges. I was invited to attend the inaugural adventure as blogger and social media person (do we have a word for us? if so, share please). I also happen to know how to ride a mountain bike** which must have helped with their selection criteria somewhat.

The first #GLAadventure took place last weekend in The Pilansberg and I (In very bad wifely form) left my husband at home to unpack and move into the house we had moved in to THE DAY BEFORE to join an amazing crew in the bush for a weekend which promised to be spectacular.

I got to hang out with the Captain of the Mountain Biking SA team, Justice Makhale (possibly the nicest guy in the world. I may just have a bit of a sporting hero crush now). Mzingisi “Ziggy” Ranaka, the winner of the adventure weekend (Ziggy is awesome friends, this man could bottle his energy and sell it), Khaya Dlanga – social media influencer of note. If awards were given for selfies, Khaya would be on the receiving end of many of them. Look!

I call this one ‘The Sunflower”

 

 

The Sunflower

The rest of the team, headed up by Director and Producer Peter Heaney (The man has pet chickens people!) ensured we got to hang with a ridiculously great bunch of people for 2 days.

I arrived at Pilansberg National Park on Saturday, just in time for lunch and a glimpse of the yet-to-be-seen Mercedes GLA. It’s one hot little vehicle that packs a serious punch. I particularly loved the way the seat-belt squeezes you just a little bit tighter – which apparently is the norm for most Mercs – but I’ll take it where I can I suppose.

20140315_154108

20140315_153925

20140315_144451

The Saturday festivities had started with a sparrows poep hot air balloon ride, so after lunch we were given a few hours to relax in our tents. Sorry, yes, I said tents. This was my style of ‘glamping’ though as the tent had a bed, a fridge and a plug point so my needs were pretty much sorted. I even got to game drive from the comfort of my duvet – as the animals came to us. I spotted these rather cute pyjama donkeys from my door and a sweet little dung beetle on the road.

20140315_171607 - Copy

Dinner that night was held in the lodges restaurant which was lovely and chilled…and an early night as we knew there was a cracker of a start on Sunday at 5 am.

Sunday morning started off early and misty – and only the GLA looked good in the cruel early hours of the morning. Showoff.

#NoMakeupSelfie
#NoMakeupSelfie
Just chilling with Justice Makhale in the boot of a GLA. As you do.
Just chilling with Justice Makhale in the boot of a GLA. As you do.

I don’t mean to brag or anything but I Got To Drive My The GLA All The Way To Sun City and it is glorious!

We arrived at the Sun City Adventure centre and after a short briefing session “If you see a rhino you must just ride faster, OK?” we set off on our bikes while the rest of the crew jumped on 4-wheelers and disappeared for hours. I suspect up to no good, but who can say.

Riding with Justice is bucket list kinda stuff and he could not have been nicer about it. he even hid his laughs when I fell off (3 times… mud, OK!) and helped me climb on my bike and clip in when my cleats were too full of mud to do so myself. Yes, he literally held my bike in place while I got on, and pushed me off. No, he didn’t make me feel like the loser I was. Yes, I am a little bit in love.

20140316_104514 - Copy

20140316_095925 - Copy (3)

The 3 of us rode around the most gorgeous bushveld for a few hours and were more than happy to oblige when Peter requested we cycle at deathly speeds through huge muddy puddles and rivers. Anything for a good shot you know, and also, Justice was far too clean and I needed to get him to match my hot look. Look:

20140316_122137 - Copy (3)

 

At the end of the ride we were shattered, and filthy and happy and I could not stop smiling. I still can’t believe that I had the opportunity to ride with Justice Makhale. Best weekend ever right?

Unfortunately, being in the middle of the bush, there was no place to clean – so after a brief hosepipe shower (Kearney, keeping it classy) we set off on the final adventure of the weekend, and undoubtedly the most important; Lunch.

Lunch, however, was to take place on the top of a mountain which meant conquering my ridiculous fear of heights and climbing in to a cable car. Cameras were rolling the whole time so I tried to hide the vomiting and screams as much as possible. Thank goodness for my sweet cable-mates who held my still muddy hand and promised me a pizza if I was a good girl. I was. I got delicious pizza.

Oh, we're going in that thing? Aw-sum.
Oh, we’re going in that thing? Aw-sum.
Ziggy. Laughs  in the face of danger.
Ziggy. Laughs in the face of danger.

That whole thing about “conquering your fear”? – totally true. The view from the top of the Harties cable way was worth every anxious sweat drop. It was incredible and not even the photos do it justice. But I’ll try:

20140316_160613 - Copy (3)

20140316_160715 - Copy (3) 20140316_160923 - Copy (3)

 

I even made a funny and pretended to jump over the ledge. Because I’m such a nerd I cropped out the deck below. I’m pretend hardcore like that.

Look ma, no hands!
Look ma, no hands!

Lunch on top with this view was an incredible way to end a very special weekend. A huge thanks to the team at Mercedes Benz South Africa for inviting me to join in on this epic adventure, and to the entire cast and crew who made it all happen.

You can follow Mercedes Benz South Africa on Twitter @MercedesBenz_SA, Facebook and Instagram 

The end result? A wicked cool YouTube video!

** Although apparently you forget how to when riding with a professional and fall of and cant get back on and in general just look and act like a complete noob. 

That's A Wrap!
That’s A Wrap!
Continue Reading

The Psychology of Social Sharing

If you have ever cyber-stalked a stranger’s wedding photos, screen-grabbed a hairstyle of someone you have never met or posted a gym workout to Facebook just to prove you went – then this post is for you.

Hello. My name is Kate, and I am a social stalker.

The Internet loves us for this exact reason – everything we do online is a form of stalking: from re-pinning, re-posting and re-tweeting. I can honestly say I have learned more skills by browsing content online than I did during my twelve years of school. I know the best Facebook pages to go to for fitness advice, the best Twitter handles to follow for fashion and beauty advice and the best boards to follow on Pinterest for décor and gardening tips.

What is it about this social sharing phenomenon that has the world using the Internet like it’s a drug? For me personally, I am inspired daily by the amazing content other people create and share every single day. When I see average people doing exceptional things it’s like a virtual kick up the backside for me – I too want to do exceptional things. When Felix jumped from Space I can guarantee that not many people went ‘meh’ and forgot about it. Somewhere, that act of bravery (or stupidity for those with acrophobia) sparked a small flame in everyone’s hearts and minds.

For some it’s as simple as pinning a weight loss story, which leads them to working out, eating healthy, and losing weight. For others, it’s learning precious conception advice from communities and starting a family. Regardless of how people use the Internet, the majority of us use it to better and empower ourselves. There is something pretty amazing about sharing a success story, and having the world support you in return.

A very popular movement in social sharing, and one of the platforms which stands out for me, is a local weight loss community named ‘Sleek Geek’. The brainchild of Elan Lohmann, the mission for him was a personal one – to lose weight and get healthy by including those around him for motivational support. It turns out that he wasn’t the only one who wanted to tackle the challenge. Hundreds of people joined and committed to working together to get healthy. The group has now taken off so much that Elan has quit his corporate job, and taken up Sleek Geek as a full time career. The concept humanises weight loss, allows you to share your stories, your successes and failures, and let’s you work towards a personal goal within a group dynamic.

Sleek Geek is just one of the many platforms designed for social sharing out there. Five, ten years ago if you wanted to achieve something you found a friend and used them as your buddy, your sponsor. Nowadays we embrace virtual friends online and join in a cause with them. There is a reason why so many apps post our progress to social sites – we crave that recognition from doing something ‘more’ – whether it’s going to gym, buying a new house or getting a new job – sharing is caring. And we want to share it with the world.

Do you know what gets me up every morning to go training? Knowing that I have told several thousand people online that I will be racing Half Iron Man next year. With that kind of pressure on me, there is no way I won’t be doing everything in my power to finish that race.

*Post originally published on www.cerebra.co.za

Image

Continue Reading

Would the real social media influencer please stand up?

Here’s an idea: “take this product and send this to some online influencers and get them to tweet about it.” Yes, that is a common brief to an agency, and no, you should not simply go ahead and get that done. Unless you’re the Reserve Bank and your product is money, simply sending stuff to an influencer is unlikely to achieve the campaign success you had hoped for.

This type of brief makes me wonder who thinks of of these promotional items, and how well they researched the recipient? It’s becoming an all too familiar scene on the ‘socials’, scrolling down your Twitter feed and catching a glimpse of a generic ‘thanks brand X for Y gift’ followed by a customary Instagram of said item. People can smell an obligatory punt from a mile away. It’s not uncommon for my timeline to be filled with repetitive brand mentions. I see them, and move on. Nothing about that sort of tweet would get me to stop to consider the product being mentioned, or make me want to go out and purchase/buy/drive/taste it.

It’s rare for a mention like that to connect with anyone but the recipient which defeats the purpose. There have however been many times when I have stopped to read a post, purely because the nature of the mention evoked some emotion in me. Take a recent incident for example: a well-known blogger tweeted about his beloved dog falling ill and a few hours later Vodacom had sent him a care pack for his beloved pooch. Something about that made me go all, “aaw, shame” and so I became engaged in the story. Turns out his dog recovered and most likely the gesture brought a smile to more than a few faces.

You could say it’s because I’m a hardcore dog lover, and that’s why it evoked an emotional response from me, but I believe it’s such a great story because the owner, clearly a dog lover himself, received an appropriate gift that would not only resonate with him, but also make his sick pup feel better.

I’ve experienced a few incidents of brand love myself. One of the most applicable being a few years back; it was a slow Monday morning at the office, the coffee machine was broken and I was nodding off at my desk. I tweeted how my day could really use a caffeine kick and about 30 minutes later a hamper of assorted coffee arrived on my desk. Very clever, very smart and very quick.

It’s the same principle as the Nordstroms ‘urban legends’. If you haven’t heard why this company is known for its killer service – read here. The reason this super store has got such a great reputation around customer service is because each and every one of the stories sound too good to be true. Yet, they aren’t.

Most of us in the media and communication industry have at one time been guilty of the ‘spray and pray’ method, whether it’s sending out a mass press release or generic gift to many in the hopes of catching a few nibbles. I would like to challenge us to change this mass approach. Firstly, cater your gestures to the individual, and secondly, when next targeting a person, take into consideration a bit more than their Twitter followers or Klout score. Look at who they are as an individual; identify their hobbies, likes, dislikes and environment. I can guarantee that an average person who is active on the ‘socials’, yet who is obsessed with food, baking and blogging would be far better suited to receiving a ticket to a food show, than a digital ‘guru’ whose hobbies include music, fast cars and woman.

South African agencies have a tendency to continually target the same people over and over again. Take dried up soapie actors appearing on most TV shows, radio DJs hopping from one station to the other and 20 online influencers receiving every free gift under the sun. Unfortunately it’s a vicious cycle, which only serves to exacerbate the problem – if these people don’t tweet about it, they dot get free stuff, so they do and the gifts keep arriving. Why not invest some time, take a step back and identify a new range of people to target – people who have passions, dreams, desires and a voice. Just because someone doesn’t have thousands of followers on Twitter, doesn’t mean that they have no voice.

Often it’s these stories that spread faster and wider because they’re more genuine than a simple product drop to the usual suspects.

*First published on www.cerebra.co.za

Engage with your influencers as people, not prospects
Too True
Continue Reading